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What's so special about French bikes?

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What's so special about French bikes?

Old 03-01-17, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by MiloFrance
If you need about a 54cm, I have a Gitane with a frankly awful spray job that needs a home and new paint. €30 (to cover the bubble wrap and a box) plus postage and it's yours...
I think I need to move to France to find a French bike, I appreciate the offer but I need a 56. Quel dommage.

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Old 03-01-17, 01:00 PM
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Old 03-01-17, 01:07 PM
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Yer tiz.
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Old 03-01-17, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by crank_addict
Whats not to love when the French overly think, such as the dropouts?

Fun blog read > Mid-Life Cycling:: A Honeycomb Or A Spider? From Huret?

That would look nicer with some Stained Glass in it.
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Old 03-01-17, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Wileyone
That would look nicer with some Stained Glass in it.
For 30 euros and postage from France, you can stain it any color you want, mount it to your wall, and continue to complain about French bikes,

Of course, @MiloFrance might not appreciate the blasphemy of using a Gitane as wall art.
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Old 03-01-17, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
I think I need to move to France to find a French bike, I appreciate the offer but I need a 56. Quel dommage.
You should make an offer on this before it ends up in my garage: https://www.flickr.com/photos/115397...h/32209277963/
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Old 03-01-17, 02:21 PM
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My Peugeot PRO 10 remains the best steel bike I have ever ridden. It has no flaws...only flaws of the rider and it does a fantastic job of mitigating for those.....I can't imagine a better touring bike than my 30+year old Meral, with a modernized drivetrain.....and since French bikes have never gotten out of my system, a Time VXRS with "as many French parts as possible?.....
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Old 03-01-17, 04:23 PM
  #83  
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Vintage French bikes have their irritations, and some have outright hazards - but most of those can be excised through careful replacement of the crummy French standard issue parts with better-functioning MIJ or Italian equivalents.

Firstly, French stems tend to be excrement, particularly if made by AVA. Some were prone to sudden and catastrophic breakage (similar to Trek's recent carbon steering tube debacle). By contrast, Nitto stems are nearly indestructible. A reasonable amount of sanding makes them fit into a French-sized headtube. Careful shimming ensures that the French bars can be recycled if desired, or, preferably, switched out for Nitto/Cinelli/ITM/Modolo etc.

Simplex derailleurs in Delrin shift well, but are prone to environmental stress-cracking and eventual failure. For most people, replacing the plastic junk bits with other Simplex (Super LJ) or Huret is cost-prohibitive. Thankfully Park Tool has a tap that can thread a Simplex dropout to accept a proper Campagnolo, Suntour or Shimano derailleur.

Stronglight, Nervex and Specialities TA made decent, beautiful cranks. The Italians and (eventually) Japanese made better cranks for square tapered spindles, with greater availability in chainrings due to standard BCD sizing.

Cartridge bottom bracket sets can be had for not all that much coin. The only change is in the cups, which have (as expected) French or Swiss threading. This can be considered a MAJOR upgrade over the older French bottom bracket sets. VeloOrange is a good source for drop-in cartridge bracket sets, and also for drop-in replacement headsets.

Once the bad stuff is gone, the French bikes are what they should have been all along - though they are still idiosyncratic.

The best French production bikes (IMO) pre-date the boom era of the 1970s. Peugeot PX10s and PY10s have always been special, as have Gitane's TdF models and Motobecane's Grand Jubilee. Rene Herse bikes are stunning. Helyetts still pop up regularly at Hilary Stone's site. Vitus had a winner in the 979 (too bad about the carbon bikes, though). And Look is still going strong. Vive la Velocipede!
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Old 03-01-17, 06:25 PM
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I don't have much experience with Vitus tubed frames though know wisely not to underestimate them.

From what I have and compared frames made with mid-level Vitus tubing, say with 888, its surprisingly impressive and a sleeper bargain for smaller size framesets.

For example, comparing two Motobecane's, first one a '72 Le Champion with Reynolds 531 the frame weight is 2,197 gm..

Now to compare, the '78 Grand Sprint frame with Vitus 888 weighed 2,082 gm..

I wouldn't go so far saying both are equal in construction or quality, but the lower model delivers and imagine a bargain back in the days. Both bikes complete as built have Campy NR shift groups and hubs. Built it for one of the kids, no shame the lowly Vitus 888 frame is also riding on tubulars. Definitely one I greatly enjoy on those 'sneak it out for a ride' occasions.
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Old 03-01-17, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
French bikes are no more idiosyncratic than others. They just happen to have lost the standards wars. That's what makes them seem weird. French standards emerged at the same time as other standards emerged. You could even argue that they make more sense, since it is based on the metric system more than the others.
Originally Posted by Salamandrine
That's exactly it. Everything metric certainly does make more sense logically. The standards that survived ended up being a strange and seemingly random mix of metric and imperial. I suppose bikes are more like a medieval city than a planned Roman town...
+1

The system we're stuck with now is the one that's oddball and mishmash. C'mon - we use a 15mm wrench to install pedals with 9/16" threads? That make any sense?

Lots to love about French bikes, but one of my favorite things has always been all of their small component makers. Yes, I understand that the lack of a cohesive, similarly badged component group was a major factor in the demise of the small French parts makers, but to me that's what made them special. On an all French bike, each part was made by a company that specialized in that one component. Too cool.

It's certainly true that French bikes can be a challenge to deal with, but to me that's part of what makes them so fun. As a Ford-fanatic gear-head buddy of mine used to say back in the muscle car era, "any idiot can build up a Chevy".



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Old 03-01-17, 07:37 PM
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That.Bertin.Is.Awesome.
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Old 03-01-17, 07:57 PM
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French bikes

I think it somewhat depends on the time period you're talking about. In my experience, the top French lightweights of the late 40s and 50s were the lightest and most beautifully made bikes of the day. Herse, Singer, Pitard, etc led the way, but many others were nearly as nice and are virtually unknown today. Frames made from lightweight Vitus tubing were around 1/4 lb lighter than butted 531 frames, and ride beautifully. Many French components in that time period were also among the lightest and best available.

Over the years, my interests have gradually shifted to earlier bikes. In seeking out the best bikes from each time period, I've moved from Italian and American (70s) to British (50s - 60s) to French (40s - 50s).
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Old 03-01-17, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by bikemig
I think I need to move to France to find a French bike, I appreciate the offer but I need a 56. Quel dommage.
Motobecane Grand Jubilee?

700c or 650b compatible...
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Old 03-01-17, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Scarbo
The French. Like it is said about women--you can't live with them; and you can't live without them.
...
A French bike? Go for it! They stand alone. As the French do. And, so ends my rhapsody on the matters Gaulois.
A fascinating piece. Thanks for that.

Of course I misread the part about "matters Gaulois" as Galois, and wondered whether we should mention Poincare, Fresnel, Fermat, Cauchy, Legendre, Fourier, LaGrange, the entire Bernoulli family, and a whole slew of others I've forgotten. Then again, some of these may not be French and I mis-remember.

Oh, um, bikes. The Motobecane is awesome. The Peugeot is a nice functional bike. The Peugeot tandem has been a real worker. Great bikes all.
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Old 03-01-17, 09:13 PM
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Originally Posted by jimmuller
A fascinating piece. Thanks for that.
You're welcome! Although, I have to confess that I think that as driving and flashy as Scarbo is (it is a fantastic piece!), the true measure of a pianist is in how he/she plays the first movement of the same work, Ondine (this is an orgasm in musical form--make no mistake! By all accounts Ravel was kind of a prudish man, maybe even a bit of a Mama's boy. I think he hid a lot from the world! I do.). Again--not meaning to bore anybody--but I have definite opinions as to who, pianistically, stands up to the knocker on this one. Have a listen to Claudio Arrau's 1963 live performance in Lugano, Switzerland. It's incomparable. **** End of Self-Indulgence ****

But how this thread has gotten me now to pine for a French bike! Maybe I can next rustle up a Peugeot. Better yet, a Gitane! What's not to like about a bike the name of which literally means Gypsy Woman, translated to English (La Gitana, in Spanish)? It is so evocative. A bike like that you could ride to the ends of the Earth.

Cheers!

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Old 03-01-17, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by MiloFrance
Yer tiz.
What's the tube set on that? I love the Huret 'honeycomb' dropouts.

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Old 03-02-17, 12:30 AM
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Originally Posted by top506
What's the tube set on that? I love the Huret 'honeycomb' dropouts.

Top
No idea. If you look at the HT pic, the paint was put on so thickly I suspect everything relevant is covered up. Fork is full chrome I think.
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Old 03-02-17, 12:56 AM
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Originally Posted by el chaba
that.bertin.is.awesome.
+1
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Old 03-02-17, 06:59 AM
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There are a lot of reasons why (some) French bikes are special....Here is a big one....Note that this act was being conducted on a Peugeot.....albeit a very special one from the Prestige shop....It was not being done on anything Japanese, English, American, or Italian...any of those more "standardized" bikes...Save for the Italian Cinelli bars and Clement tubulars the bike was entirely French....
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Old 03-02-17, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by El Chaba
There are a lot of reasons why (some) French bikes are special....Here is a big one....Note that this act was being conducted on a Peugeot.....albeit a very special one from the Prestige shop....It was not being done on anything Japanese, English, American, or Italian...any of those more "standardized" bikes...Save for the Italian Cinelli bars and Clement tubulars the bike was entirely French....

THAT RIDER could just as easily have performed THAT ACT on any non-French bicycle in the pro peleton. The bicycle was probably the least important part of the equation after the rider, the course, his tactics and strategy, his support riders, his manager, his masseur, his dietician, etc.
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Old 03-02-17, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by SuperLJ
+1

The system we're stuck with now is the one that's oddball and mishmash. C'mon - we use a 15mm wrench to install pedals with 9/16" threads? That make any sense?

Lots to love about French bikes, but one of my favorite things has always been all of their small component makers. Yes, I understand that the lack of a cohesive, similarly badged component group was a major factor in the demise of the small French parts makers, but to me that's what made them special. On an all French bike, each part was made by a company that specialized in that one component. Too cool.

It's certainly true that French bikes can be a challenge to deal with, but to me that's part of what makes them so fun. As a Ford-fanatic gear-head buddy of mine used to say back in the muscle car era, "any idiot can build up a Chevy".


That's a really pretty Bike. I think I may becoming a convert.
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Old 03-02-17, 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Wileyone
That's a really pretty Bike. I think I may becoming a convert.
It looks like this thread is doing some good,

Agreed that the Bertin is a stunning bike.
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Old 03-02-17, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Wileyone
A Girlfriend you can't communicate with. Maybe I can finally get some Peace.
+1 I am a feminist but that was funny.
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Old 03-02-17, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by T-Mar
THAT RIDER could just as easily have performed THAT ACT on any non-French bicycle in the pro peleton. The bicycle was probably the least important part of the equation after the rider, the course, his tactics and strategy, his support riders, his manager, his masseur, his dietician, etc.




True...but the act would not have been nearly as awesome if performed on a Miyata or Schwinn....This was a finger in the eye to all of the people who thought that all French bikes were Peugeot UO8's with Delrin Simplexes and cottered cranks....
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Old 03-02-17, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Chombi1
What's so special about French bikes??

Personally, I feel that my 84 Peugeot PY10FC ticks all the boxes I have for what my personal, ultmate grail bike should have, but the best thing about it is it's "Tout French" except for only the tires and the saddle (Standard from the factory and used by the Peugeot team, Weinmann Carrera 400 brrakeset, Schwalbe Milano tubulars and Selle Italia Turbo /saddle, but I do have Micheline SSC tubs ready as my next pair for the bike). but I'm so happy how everything else, al French prts and components went together and resuted in the bike I now have.....
Heck, I'll take on a French build anytime before anything else (even an exotic Italian). Does someone have an 83 Gitane Pro (Lemond/Fignon/Hinault race bike replica) they can sell me asap??.....Or maybe even a Turbo Mecacycle??
But maybe I'm also partiial to French bikes because I grew up as a kid in the 70's with my father buying and loving cars like a Peugeot 404 Pinninfarina coupe, a couple of Renault 16TS' and a Renault 17 Gordini......


Very nice and with a very proper spec of parts...Especially nice is the very seldom seen Delta crankset with the "carbon" big ring.....
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